The Greatest Battle

Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II
The Greatest Battle

The battle for Moscow was the biggest battle of World War II -- the biggest battle of all time. And yet it is far less known than Stalingrad, which involved about half the number of troops. From the time Hitler launched his assault on Moscow on September 30, 1941, to April 20, 1942, seven million troops were engaged in this titanic struggle.

The Battle for Moscow was the deadliest battle of World War II--and the deadliest battle of all time. Between September 30, 1941 and April 20, 1942, seven million German and Soviet troops took part in the battle, and 2.5 million of them were killed, taken prisoner, missing or severely wounded. As German troops approached Moscow, half of the city's population fled, while others looted stores, staged strikes and attacked those who were escaping. In the end, the German drive fell short, but Stalin's regime was so embarrassed by how close they came, by the mistakes the Soviet dictator made that allowed them to do so, and the behavior of many of its own citizens, that the battle was given short shrift in their history books.

Both Hitler and Stalin (briefly allied and now newly at war) intruded themselves into the strategies for their armies. Hitler was so overconfident--even though his generals warned him--that the German army went into battle in the Russian fall with no winter clothes. Stalin was so in denial that the majority of Russian soldiers had no weapons. They had to wait for a comrade to fall in order to acquire a gun. Soviet soldiers following the front lines were under orders to shoot anyone who retreated. Meanwhile, the German soldiers, well equipped with armaments, and well trained but with no winter clothes, were freezing to death by the thousands.

Constantine Pleshakov
So far, no one has done for Moscow what Jan Morris did for Venice: No devoted outsider (yes, an outsider, as it takes a foreigner to read a city) has brought to life its myths, martyrs and demons. Moscow is not poetic the way Venice is, yet its magic is just as potent. The caverns under the Kremlin… more
Robert Messenger
The German Way of War: How two centuries of militarism came to an end on the Eastern Front. THERE IS A GERMAN WAY OF WAR. Its distinctive characteristic is the muster of overwhelming force and a rapid advance into enemy territory. The successive Prussian and German states were surrounded (and felt… more
Anne Applebaum
Hitler invaded the Soviet Union at 0400 hours on June 22, 1941. By June 23, the Wehrmacht had destroyed the entire Soviet air force. By June 26, the Soviet commander of the Western front had lost radio contact with Moscow. By June 28, German troops had entered Minsk, the capital of Soviet Belarus.… more
Lt Cmdr Youssef Aboul-Enein
The study of warfare can become a lifelong passion. Among the significant battles in history are the titanic struggles between Hitler and Stalin during World War II. Kursk, Leningrad and Stalingrad are names familiar to those with even a light interest in World War II land campaigns. However,… more
Ned Crabb
"Now we know. The Germans are not human. Now the word 'German' has become the most terrible swear word. Let us not speak. Let us not be indignant. Let us kill.... If you have killed one German, kill another. There is nothing jollier than German corpses." When Ilya Ehrenburg, a correspondent for the… more
H V Cordry
The Battle for Moscow in 1941 was on a scale so colossal as to be unprecedented. Never in history had two armies come together in comparable numbers --- a total of seven million combatants, on a field of battle the size of France. The architect of the German plan, Wilhelm Keitel, said the object of… more